Compression Therapy and Compression Garments in Pittsburgh
At the Advanced Vein Center, believe in treating the source of vein problems, not just the symptoms!
Many skin care centers that treat aesthetically displeasing leg veins focus on injecting the legs with sclerotherapy. However, patients with serious leg swelling and discoloration from long standing vein disease need true medical leg vein treatment. Serious treatment of vein disease begins and ends with the compression management of leg edema.
Many Insurance companies actually require a course of compression therapy for swollen legs before they will even consider paying for vein surgery or any other vein procedures. Although compression won’t change the underlying vein disease, it may help control painful and destructive vein symptoms while you wear them.
Not all stockings are created equal! Compression vein stockings have a compression gradient- that means they are stronger at the bottom than at the top. Because gravity causes more blood pooling and swelling farther away from the heart and lower to the ground, it’s important for them to work more where they are needed the most They also come in different materials, colors and textures:
- Cotton sport sock styles for men and athletes
- Black dress sock styles for use with trousers
- Colorful waist high and thigh high varieties as a fashion accessory!
- Standard tan for our conservative patients and to make life easier at your foot doctor appointments we can offer open toe stockings.
Why should i wear compression stockings?
COMPRESSION THERAPY FOR POOR CIRCULATION
Lymphedema occurs when your lymph vessels are unable to adequately drain lymph fluid, usually from an arm or leg. Lymphedema can be either primary or secondary. This means it can occur on its own (primary lymphedema), or it can be caused by another disease or condition (secondary lymphedema). Secondary lymphedema is far more common than primary lymphedema.Graduated compression garments are an important part of a management plan to restore or improve circulation. Compression stockings are worn to assist with circulation, provide support to the legs and veins, and diminish swelling. The compression is graduated, with the strongest support starting at the ankles and gradually decreasing towards the top of the garment. As a person moves, graduated compression stockings apply pressure to the outside of the veins to help reduce their size, help the valves close and aid in returning blood back to the heart. The combination of graduated compression stockings plus leg activity can help improve blood circulation and give you more freedom to move.
COMPRESSION THERAPY FOR LYMPHEDEMA
Lymphedema is a condition that affects the lymphatic vessels, which are responsible for transporting protein-rich lymph fluid back into the circulatory system. When lymph vessels are unable to transport this fluid properly, a build-up occurs, resulting in swelling and the thickening of the skin. Although there is no cure, wearing compression garments is one of the most important aspects of managing lymphedema. Compression garments are designed to keep a continuous pressure on the swollen/affected area to assist the drainage of fluid and minimize swelling.
There’s no cure for lymphedema. Treatment focuses on reducing the swelling and controlling the pain. Lymphedema treatments include:
- Exercises. Light exercises in which you move your affected limb may encourage lymph fluid drainage and help prepare you for everyday tasks, such as carrying groceries. Exercises shouldn’t be strenuous or tire you but should focus on gentle contraction of the muscles in your arm or leg. A certified lymphedema therapist can teach you exercises that may help.
- Wrapping your arm or leg. Bandaging your entire limb encourages lymph fluid to flow back toward the trunk of your body. The bandage should be tightest around your fingers or toes and loosen as it moves up your arm or leg. A lymphedema therapist can show you how to wrap your limb.
- Massage. A special massage technique called manual lymph drainage may encourage the flow of lymph fluid out of your arm or leg. And various massage treatments may benefit people with active cancer. Be sure to work with someone specially trained in these techniques.
Massage isn’t for everyone. Avoid massage if you have a skin infection, blood clots or active disease in the involved lymph drainage areas.
- Pneumatic compression. A sleeve worn over your affected arm or leg connects to a pump that intermittently inflates the sleeve, putting pressure on your limb and moving lymph fluid away from your fingers or toes.
- Compression garments. Long sleeves or stockings made to compress your arm or leg encourage the flow of the lymph fluid out of your affected limb. Wear a compression garment when exercising the affected limb.
Obtain a correct fit for your compression garment by getting professional help. Ask your doctor where you can buy compression garments in your community. Some people will require custom-made compression garments.
If you have difficulties putting on or taking off the compression garment, there are special techniques and aids to help with this; your lymphedema therapist can review options with you. In addition, if compression garments or compression wraps or both are not an option, sometimes a compression device with fabric fasteners can work for you.
What are Leg Ulcers?
Chronic venous insufficiency can result in several complications, including swollen achy legs, pain, deep vein thrombosis, spider and varicose veins, and venous leg ulcers. Ulcer/wound usually occurs above the ankle and below the calf and refuses to heal or heals slowly.
HOW DOES POOR CIRCULATION CAUSE ULCERS?
When veins become weak, enlarged or overstretched and valves don’t work properly, this allows poor circulation to occur in your lower leg, possibly resulting in chronic venous insufficiency and a breakdown in skin known as leg ulcers.
HOW CAN COMPRESSION STOCKINGS HELP?
Compression therapy address circulation problems by supporting the leg calf muscle and veins. This support increases circulation in your leg. Maintaining good circulation is crucial to managing these types of open wounds and decreasing the risk of recurrence.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q: Other than vein compression socks, how else can I help swollen legs?
A: Elevation, elevation, elevation! Leg swelling occurs when the valves in the leg veins fail and gravity pools the blood down to your feet and ankles. Have gravity work for you rather than against you and “put your feet up” whenever you get a chance!
Q: How does exercise help leg swelling?
A: Our vein experts in Beaver county explain that while arteries have muscle tissue in their walls, veins do not. You rely on your calf muscles surrounding the veins in your legs to pump the blood against gravity, back to the heart. The stronger your leg muscles are from walking and exercise, the more strongly they can pump the blood in the veins.
Q: What are the symptoms of vein disease?
A: Besides swollen legs, which is called edema, major symptoms of vein disease include brownish discoloration around the ankles and breakdown of the skin. Minor vein disease symptoms are itchiness which increases as the day goes on, night cramps and restless leg symptoms. Some report to our vein doctors in Cranberry Twp they actually get charley horses in their calves, so severe it can awaken them from sleep.
Q: Is there anything I should avoid if I have poor vein health?
A: Exposure to sun is very damaging to veins. The sun and heat cause the elastic to release and make swelling worse leading to blood leaking out of the vein and the hemoglobin from the escaped blood products to stain and discolor skin. This then goes on to weaken the skin and can lead to leg ulcers. Ditto for saunas, jacuzzis and hot tubs!
Q: What should I do after a vein procedure?
A: After a vein procedure you NEED to WEAR COMPRESSION GARMENTS! How long you need to wear your stockings and the best type is up to your vein doctor in Butler, PA and our other pittsburgh vein centers.
Q: Other than compression socks, what else can I do to relieve pain after vein procedures?
A: Drink several glasses of water daily. Never take Ibuprofen, Aleve or other NSAIDS and especially no Aspirin for several days, only Tylenol for discomfort, as the others can thin your blood and increase bleeding complications. Ice is a simple, safe alternative to pain medicine to sooth local pain and inflammation after a vein procedure. Know that a small amount of discomfort is normal, but if you experience severe pain or bleeding, call your vein surgeon immediately and go to an emergency room if bleeding is out of control.